Holiday Oyster Stew

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Angela's Holiday Oyster Stew

Oyster stew is a traditional Christmas Eve meal. I didn't like any of the recipes I found, so I wrote my own. This is an easy stew to make and very satisfying!
Course Main Course, Soup
Cuisine American
Keyword creamy oyster stew, holiday, oyster stew
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Servings 8 servings
Author misangela

Ingredients

  • 1 large shallot, small dice (or two smallish ones) sub about 1/4 cup finely diced onion
  • 2 stalks celery, finely sliced
  • 1 med carrot, scrubbed, halved and finely sliced dice if carrot is large; about 1/3 cup
  • 1 med leek, cleaned, halved then finely sliced
  • 1 small fennel bulb, finely diced, about 2/3 cup
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced about 1.5 Tbl
  • olive oil for cooking veg, about 1 Tbl
  • 1 tsp each, S/P use white pepper if you prefer
  • 4 Tbl butter I always use salted
  • 4 Tbl flour, any type
  • 1/4 cup sherry optional
  • 1 med lemon, zest and juice about 1-2Tbl juice, to taste
  • 4 cups fish stock sub veg stock
  • 2 Tbl sherry vinegar sub white wine or champagne vinegar
  • 2 Tbl L&P Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 Tbl Frank's Hot sauce or whatever you like
  • 1 16oz container shucked oysters with liquor, cut into bite sized pieces (they are LARGE; 4-5 pc EA) OR 1-2 dozen large freshly shucked oysters (SEE NOTES)
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream, up to 3/4 cup, to taste
  • 1/2 cup sour cream or crème fraîche optional, but adds thickness
  • 2 Tbl fresh tarragon, minced +/- to taste; sub basil (use HALF for dry)
  • 1 Tbl fresh mint, minced optional but lovely with tarragon or basil (HALF for dry)
  • 2 Tbl fresh parsley, minced adds freshness, use fresh parsley or omit
  • fennel fronds for garnish

Instructions

  • Do all your prep first. Have all ingredients ready to go.
  • Heat a large dutch oven over medium heat. Cover bottom with olive oil and gently sweat shallot, celery, carrots, leeks, fennel and garlic.
  • When veg is translucent, add butter and when melted, add flour. Stir the flour, butter and veg and turn up the heat to med hi while stirring. 
  • Add lemon zest and sherry, stir. Add fish stock and turn up heat to hi. Bring to boil for one minute, reduce to simmer. 
  • At simmer, add sherry vinegar, L&P, Franks and herbs. Taste for S/P levels. Add oysters and liquor. Cook at simmer for about 10 minutes. 
  • Off heat, add cream, lemon juice and sour cream, then check seasoning one more time.
  • Serve with fennel fronds and a swirl of Franks. Toasted baguette is great for this soup. 

Notes

Do make an effort to use fresh herbs for this stew. They really do make all the difference.
I use a LOT of tarragon because I love fresh tarragon and it goes so well with fennel. Feel free to dial it back if you don't like that anise flavour. Or omit and use basil instead.
I like a bright taste, so I used about 2Tbl lemon juice. Tune the amount to your taste. SAME with the cream. You want a balance between cream and citrus.
If the stew is too thick, thin a bit with water. Mine was too thin, so I doubled the butter and flour.
The pre-shucked oysters are very large, they were cut into 4-5 pcs EACH. If you shuck fresh oysters, you need about 30-40 pcs, so figure your amount that way.
This recipe makes about 2 quarts. It CANNOT be frozen due to the cream.

Veggie Dip Base Recipe

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Vegetable Dip (base recipe)

This dip recipe can be adapted to many cuisines! I use it often for catering and parties and it's always a hit! See notes for variations.
Course Drinks, Snack
Cuisine American
Keyword cream cheese, roasted veg, vegetarian
Prep Time 20 minutes
Author misangela

Equipment

  • Food Processor or Blender

Ingredients

  • 1 8oz block cream cheese you can use reduced fat, but why?
  • 2 red bell peppers, roasted and peeled you can multicolor mini peppers here if you like, use 8
  • 1 6-8" zucchini, halved and roasted about 1.5 - 2 cups chopped
  • 1 small onion, halved and roasted with veg cut side up any color is fine, about 2/3 cup chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced very fine
  • 1/2 tsp each S/P to taste
  • olive oil to roast veg
  • 3 Tbl chopped fresh parsley or other herb, see notes
  • 1 tsp sweet or smoked paprika optional, see notes

Instructions

  • Put cream cheese on counter to warm up while you do the veg.
  • Put prepped veg on a sheet pan and lightly coat in olive oil, salt and pepper. Put peppers cut side down, with zucchini and onion cut side up. Put under the broiler and roast until peppers are charred. Flip onion or take it out if it gets too charred.
  • Cool veg, peel red peppers and cut all into 1-2" chunks.
  • Put all roasted veg and garlic into food processor and whiz until uniform.
  • Add cream cheese in chunks, whiz until smooth.
  • Add paprika and parsley (or other flavorings, see notes) and pulse a couple of times.
  • Check seasonings and serve slightly chilled or room temp. Store in fridge.

Notes

This is a very versatile recipe! It can be changed drastically simply by swapping out veg and changing the herbs and spices. I typically add whatever herbs I've got to this; I've added mint, cilantro, tarragon, basil and thyme at various times. This dip is also a lovely condiment for sammies.
NON Veggie Ham Dip
I had leftover ham from Tgiving, so I whizzed it up and added to the dip. SO GOOD! It can be used for dip or on sandwiches - it reminds me of ham salad. I added about 1.5 cups of ground ham to the base. 
Mexican
  • Add one roasted roma tomato, seeded
    Use cumin and oregano rather than paprika
    Use fresh cilantro rather than parsley
Middle Eastern
  • Use one Chinese eggplant (or very small standard, or 3-4 of the tiny ones) instead of the zucchini
    Add 2 Tbl tahini
    Use cumin in addition to smoked paprika
    Use fresh cilantro and/or mint
Italian
  • Add one roasted roma tomato, seeded
    Add 2 Tbl grated parmesan
    Use dry basil and oregano
    Use fresh basil
Indian
  • Add 2 tsp curry powder instead of paprika
    Or use garam masala

The Day the Music Died and Other Tragedies

I watched the Patsy Cline biopic the other day and it reminded me of all the talent that’s been lost due to stupid decisions by a pilot. Buddy Holly, The Big Bopper and Richie Valens died because the pilot was not qualified to fly with instruments only. Patsy Cline, Hawkshaw Hawkins and Cowboy Copas died for the same reason and the fact that the pilot was an amateur (only 160ish hours flying). Stevie Ray Vaughn and the people in that helicopter died because the pilot decided to fly with near zero visibility and promptly slammed into a mountain seconds after take off.

In all three incidents, the pilots were to blame for flying in very poor conditions. These deaths were all 100% avoidable.

I have 27 hours of flight training, which is just past soloing. My father had over 1000 flight hours and was instrument rated. It is incredible to me that people would board an aircraft when the weather is obviously terrible. And it pisses me off that a pilot would go ahead and fly despite lack of training and obviously terrible conditions. Even with instrument ratings, there are still times to avoid flying!

My father had a Bonanza A36 (4 passenger plus 2 pilots) that he flew regularly from E TN to his restaurant in MO. Only once did he (with my mother!!) attempt to fly in poor conditions. It was cold and icy but he took off after deicing. Once you are above the weather, ice is not an issue. BUT they had to land in KY because the ice had compromised the plane’s handling before he could get above the weather. He told me about this and how scared he was – it was early in his flying years. That was the last time he ever flew in bad conditions. Later on, even after getting his instrument rating (IFR means he can fly without seeing the ground which is VFR or visual flying), he was still very particular about when he would fly.

I suppose all the pilots above might’ve been in a similar position, perhaps they’d never flown in such dire conditions and didn’t realise how bad it really was. But two of these guys were professionals. I expect more from someone with 700 hrs of flying! (The Buddy Holly pilot was a pro, but even HE flew in IFR conditions when he was not qualified to do so. HUBRIS.)

I won’t take a commercial flight if the weather is bad. If they have to deice the damn plane to get it off the ground – NOPE. My ass will not be on it. I don’t even like flying in the rain!! One Christmas we flew to Detroit and they hadn’t bothered to clean off the goddam runway! We skidded several hundred feet upon landing. Most ppl didn’t even know it, BUT I DID. I was LIVID when we got off the plane. Luckily the weather cleared up by the time we flew back. Just damn.

So, hey kids, just don’t fly if it’s questionable. Seems pretty logical to me. I don’t care what the pilot or airline says, if you feel that the weather is too bad, don’t get on the plane.

Alternatives to FB

Someone posted about an alternative network to FB today and it sent me down the rabbit hole to explore what’s out there. I’m aware of several networks that have been created in the last few years, but none can seem to scratch FB’s dominance. In an effort to encourage others to leave FB – even if I can’t due to adminning umpteen pages – here is the comment I made to the Parler person with lots of links and info.

A while back, some folks were going to WT Social. It’s by the Wikipedia guy. And some others went to MeWe. Yet another is Ello. I don’t really endorse any of these, they are all MEH. However, I’ll go to any network (that is not right wing) where my friends go.

So where y’all wanna go? WT Social ELLO is MY vote! (changed my mind after looking them over)

Mastodon and the other decentralized platforms are a PITA to use and I don’t like them. I’ve got a Mastodon account, but it’s just too much work to use. I deleted the phone app and haven’t been over there in ages.

Yes, I’ve got accounts on all these platforms, fwiw. Perhaps I shall go forth and see if my accounts are still working… I like to jump on all new things to get my preferred handle! If you don’t know it, I guess you don’t know me that well, eh? LOL

Here is a very extensive article on the various FB alternatives; BTW, this site has SHITTY info for sites, hosts and domain registrars. I DO NOT ENDORSE this site in the slightest. I can confirm that the social network list is accurate, however.

And FINALLY: I have confirmed that Parler is a right wing/T**** network. I would not use it nor do I endorse it. I’ve also seen that MeWe has been the network of choice for MAGAts who are trying to organize their stop the election shit. So I’ll probably delete that account here shortly. I want NOTHING to do with any network that is a nest of ignorant T**** followers.

Pandemic Reading List 2020

SEE 2021 list.

More of an end of year wrap up, but I thought I’d revive my reading list blogs. If nothing else, perhaps it might encourage others to READ MORE. Here is a list of the books I’ve read this year plus the few stragglers from 2019 and a short opinion of each book. No particular order (I’ll try to follow the order in the photo).

The Lacuna, B Kingsolver. (not pictured) Historical fiction covering the 30s – 50s in Mexico and America. EXCELLENT READ. The main character is a man who has a Mexican mother and an American father and his life moving between the two countries and cultures. It is a timely read RIGHT NOW since it echoes our current history so disturbingly. The first part of the book centers on the main character’s (Harrison Shepherd) life in Mexico. It is very interesting because he ends up being a cook for Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo! So the reader gets a LOT of historical information about these two artists as well as Mexico during the Communist era in the 40s. The Riveras were close friends of the Trotskys and Shepherd is portrayed as Trotsky’s typist as well as the household cook. Then Shepherd returns to the US to be a writer and settles in Asheville NC. Kingsolver intersperses a little Appalachian history in this section, which is interesting. Then as the story moves towards the 50s, it explores the McCarthy era of accusing everyone of being a Communist. VERY jarring to see the clear correlations of that era and NOW. It’s like T**** took the historical records of that time and just replayed them. Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. TRUER WORDS were never spoken. The old white men who are currently fucking up this country are same ones who REMEMBER the McCarthy era and are using it as a template. I HIGHLY recommend this book – especially for Americans. Sometimes you need to be reminded that bad things have happened and they will happen again without vigilance.

The Aviator’s Wife, M Benjamin. I’m about halfway through this one. It is historical fiction revolving around Anne Morrow, the wife of Charles Lindbergh. It’s a good read; the characters are strong and the pace is decent.

Reading Lolita in Tehran, A Nafisi. This book is excellent. It begins with Dr Nafisi describing her underground reading group for females from her classes at Uni. Which is fine, it’s mildly interesting. She also gives a lot of literary analysis of various books such as Lolita, etc. BUT about halfway through, she goes into full memoir and describes Iran before and during the Islamic takeover. This is very eye opening and VERY RELEVANT to the bullshit we’ve just seen in the US. We are much closer to a religious regime here than most would like to admit. She also describes the war with Iraq, which was eight years long. Then Dr Nafisi circles back to her group of women and shares more of their stories. The best part of the book is definitely the memories of Iran pre-Ayatollah. Overall, this book is sad and about loss – of friends, of liberty, of her country. Dr Nafisi finally leaves Iran with her family to come to the US after enduring 17 years of Islamic rule in Iran. I think every American should read it and see that YES the unthinkable CAN happen. Iranians really did not realise that the Republic of Islam was taking over. It’s the frog in the pot scenario, which is also happening here. We may have beaten back the hillbillies THIS YEAR, but they are here to stay and we should NOT forget about their hateful desire to control this country and everyone in it. Sharia laws are not just for Islam, you know.

Full Throttle, J Hill. Short story collection by Joe Hill. EXCELLENT. He definitely has his daddy’s writing gene!

Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress, D Sijie. Historical fiction novella. It’s about two boys sent for “reeducation” during the Chinese Revolution. An engaging, short read in which you’ll learn something about the Chinese Cultural Revolution. Recommend.

Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2, T Wilbur. Picked this up for fun, it’s chain restaurant recipes deciphered for the home cook. Fun!

The Girl on the Train, P Hawkins. I saw the movie a while back and thought I’d read the novel to compare. The novel is SO much better, of course. It delves deeply into the protagonist’s alcoholism. It’s also in an English setting. Very good read.

Halfway to Each Other, S Pohlman. I picked this one up because it’s about a family who moves to Italy for a year and I thought I might glean some info about doing that. Eh, not so much. It’s a memoir of a rich uber Christian family who takes a year OFF and goes to Italy. They are quintessential asshole Americans who barge into Italy without bothering to learn a single word of Italian. Ugh. I learned that Italy is pretty lax with their immigration documents, tho, which I already knew. It was not really worth the read.

Dark Places, G Flynn. Yes, this is the author of Sharp Objects, which was a mini series that blazed with Amy Adams and Patricia Clarkson, and Gone Girl, another good movie AND book. I’ve not read Sharp Objects yet, it’s in the stack. Anyway, this is Flynn’s third book and it’s a great character study, but a bit slow. It’s a decent read.

And the Trees Crept In, D Curtagich. This is a YA novel to the core. The most interesting thing about it is the unique typesetting. Otherwise, it is slow and repetitive. Read if you like YA.

Red Scarf Girl, L Jiang. This is a memoir from the Chinese Cultural Revolution, written by a woman who lived it. It is stark and very sad. The brainwashing of young people during the Revolution was really horrible. Read if you want to learn about how countries can be taken over by fascists. A cautionary tale.

The Space Between Us, T Umrigar. This is a memoir about growing up in India when the castes were very much enforced. The woman who wrote this grew up when the caste system was being dismantled, so her views were different than her parents and family. Interesting if you like learning about other cultures, as I do.

What Happened, H R Clinton. I read Hillary’s memoir Hard Choices and I enjoy her style of writing. This is about the loss in 2016 and I found it to be heartbreakingly honest and infuriating as well. Everyone should read this book. She does not pull punches about how she was treated, nor about the mistakes she made in the campaign. Highly recommend.

The Book of Gutsy Women, H R Clinton & C Clinton. (not pictured) This is a collection of women chosen by Hillary and Chelsea as examples of strong, brave women throughout history. They each chime in on how that particular woman helped shape who they are. I have to say, my respect for Hillary (and Chelsea, too) has grown immensely since reading her books. Highly recommend.

The Testaments, M Atwood. The wrap up of the Handmaid’s Tale and the fall of Gilead. It was ok. I dunno, since we’re living a nascent Gilead right now, it didn’t do much for me. It’s good to have an ending to the saga, tho. Which is sort of the issue I have with the show of the same name. They need to wrap it up, June has already done WAY more than I think would be possible under a regime such as that. If you want an ending, read this book. It’s still Atwood, so the writing is excellent.

Southern Heirloom Cooking, N J M Haydel & H McQueen. Another fun little cookbook I picked up at Goodwill. I like to get anything with old Southern recipes in it. This is a family recipe collection and VERY familiar!

The Art of Cuisine, Toulouse-Latrec and M Joyant. YES, THAT Toulouse-Latrec! This is a cookbook he wrote in ’66 that was translated by Joyant in ’66. The copy I have is a first edition with library dust jacket. It is full of sketches and illustrations by Toulouse-Latrec, which I LOVE. The recipes? Eh, a bit weird for me. LOL They ate a lot of stews back then in France.

Flight or Fright, edited by S King and B Vincent. This is a collection of airplane related horror stories edited by Stephen King. These stories are from various authors. Entertaining!

Two graphic novels: Starve Vol 1&2, a chef based story that is suspiciously close to Bourdain. I liked it a lot!
Screwed, a fun romp with a Frankenstein feel.

Gwendy’s Button Box, S King & R Chizmar. A short novella with a twisty story. Loved it!

If It Bleeds, S King. This is another short story collection from King. Excellent as always. He is a MASTER of the short story.

The Tiger’s Wife, T Obreht. A Chinese fictional novel written by an author originally from Belgrade. It is a first novel and very well written. She weaves a lovely tale with ancient legends and spirit animals.

Song of the Jade Lily, K Manning. This is a historical novel as well as contemporary. She weaves the story of her family (1939) with the current life of one of the main characters (2006). I love me some historical fiction and I loves me some Chinese history. Lovely book!

The Mind of the South, W J Cash. Abandoned. It was just too dated and dry for me.

The Happiness Project, G Rubin. Abandoned. It’s 2020 with a fucking pandemic. Just NO. Too pollyanna for the current times.

The Institute, S King. I’ve read a lot of King this year! This one links to Black House and Hearts in Atlantis via the children used as Breakers. King as his prolific, wonderful self.

Geisha, A Life, M Iwasaki. RE-READ. I have the updated paperback of this book, but forgot about it, so I got the first edition hardback again by accident. It’s a good read and a good memoir of being a geisha (geiko) in Kyoto during post-war Japan.

SEE 2021 list.